ATLANTA -- Two months after he persuaded a local court judge to bar a $10.8 million airport bond issue planned by Clayton County, Ga., antitax activist Jim Trammell is at it again.
Trammel's target this time: $4.9 million of revenue bonds that the county hopes to sell to fund a volleyball venue for the 1996 Summer Olympics. He insists that the volleyball bonds are actually general obligation debt in disguise, in violation of state law.
"The [volleyball] revenue issue would expose our property to a levy without a vote," Trammel said yesterday. "If the facility fails to provide revenue, county property owners will be held hostage."
Trammell, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, said he will seek to block the Clayton County Tourism Authority deal when it comes before the county's superior court for validation early next year.
Trammell's attorney, Lee Sexton, said he will show that the authority's enabling legislation violates Georgia's constitution.
"General powers given the [Tourism] authority in the enacting legislation could allow us to contest the revenue issue," said Sexton. "Property [of Clayton County residents! could be exposed to levies and foreclosures in violation of state law," Sexton said.
Under the plan, the county would use proceeds of the borrowing to finance the purchase of a 79.4-acre water park from developer Ronnie Thornton.
In November, the authority agreed to pay $4 million for Atlanta Beach, the water park and the proposed site for the volleyball venue. Bond proceeds would also cover $850,000 needed to build an 8,000 seat stadium and pay for a noise-abatement study.
The county also plans to tap its general fund for $2.2 million to buy from Thornton an adjoining 115.2 acres of largely undeveloped land for future projects.
Clayton County officials dismissed Trammell's objection to the volleyball debt. "Mr. Trammell wants to challenge any action by county government," said county commission chairman Crandle Bray. "He likes to see his name in the paper."
However, Trammell's challenge to a proposed issue of Clayton County airport revenue bonds was upheld twice by county superior court Judge William Ison. Ison denied the bond's validation and rejected a subsequent appeal.
Ison ruled that, according to the terms of an intergovernmental agreement between the authority and the county, the airport bond issue constituted "a contract to pay a debt and therefore requires the County to pledge its taxing power," in violation of Georgia law.
Under Georgia law, local governments must seek approval from voters before issuing GO debt.
Clayton County has appealed the ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Tourism Authority chairman Carl Rhodenizer last month removed himself from the debate on the volleyball bond issue, citing a "conflict of interest."
In an interview Friday, Rhodenizer insisted that revenues from the water park and the volleyball arena can cover debt service on the proposed borrowing.
"The Tourism Authority believes there is sufficient cash flow to retire the bonds if the county continues operate the facility like Mr. Thornton," he said.
Under an agreement to be approved by both the county and the authority next Tuesday, the authority would lease its portion of the purchase, the water park, back to the county, which would in turn manage the facility.
Rhodenizer said the agreement is needed to satisfy Olympic officials who wish to use Atlantic Beach for the volleyball competition during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
Bray, the commission chairman, said he is reviewing the intergovernmental agreement and related leases.
"I am confident the [volleyball] revenue bond can sustain any intervention," he said.
"I don't believe the facility can adequately retire the debt," said Trammell, referring to the intergovernmental agreements. "If [the authority] thought there was sufficient funds, there wouldn't be all these shell games."